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486                  HISTORY OF PERSIA         CHAP. LXXX
and Russia became more acute as the years went by.
Both powers were fighting keenly to forward their
respective interests, and consequently it was impossible,
in the absence of any definite agreement, to avoid
Persians have frequently told me that the Tobacco
Regie was a very heavy blow to the moral prestige of
Great Britain. This was followed by the two loans,
both of which were furnished by Russia, but the really
crushing blow was the new customs tariff. These blows
were mainly delivered while Great Britain was engaged
in the South African War and consequently was not
free to take a strong line.
Against these undoubted shocks to the moral and
material prestige of the British Government can only
be set the tour of Lord Curzon in the Persian Gulf, the
Sistan Boundary Commission and the opening of the
Nushki-Sistan route. The appearance of the Viceroy of
India in the Persian Gulf in the winter of 1903, escorted
by the East India squadron, reacted favourably on the
political situation, as it corroborated the statement of
policy by Lord Lansdowne in the previous spring. Speak-
ing in the House of Lords, the British Foreign Minister
had declared: "I say it without hesitation, we should
regard the establishment of a naval base or of a fortified
port in the Persian Gulf by any other power as a very
grave menace to British interests, and we should certainly
resist it with all the means at our disposal." This state-
ment was timely and served as an encouragement to British
officials in Persia. It may be noted that during Lord
Curzon's tenure of the Viceroyalty increased interest was
manifested in Persia by the Government of India. Many
new consulates were founded, a trade mission was de-
spatched to south-east Persia, and in every way British
commerce was fostered and supported. Owing to these
measures British prestige gradually recovered, until the
results of the Russo-Japanese struggle modified the policy
of Russia in the direction of an understanding with Great